York County-based auction house offering 'only-known' Babe Ruth pinback button

Babe Ruth is featured on a pinback button honoring the 1916 Boston Red Sox team that won the World Series.
  • Hake's Auction is offering a pinback button featuring the 1916 Boston Red Sox.
  • Babe Ruth is featured on the button. Boston won the World Series in 1916.
  • Ruth was a pitcher for the Red Sox in 1916, going 23-12 with a 1.75 ERA.

If you're a hardcore baseball memorabilia collector and have a considerable amount of cash to invest, the online auction from York County-based Hake’s Auctions may be just what you're looking for.

Even if you don’t have tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars to spend on a what is thought to be a one-of-a-kind baseball pinback button, there are hundreds of other auctions ongoing as well.

The highlight of one of Hake’s three premier auctions each year is unquestionably something that Hake’s president, Alex Winter, believes to one of the top 20 items ever up for grabs from the auction house since its inception in 1967.

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Part of Munchinsky collection: The collectible comes from the sizable collection from the late Dr. Paul Munchinsky, who was an author and collector of pinback buttons from across the world of sports. The six-inch collectible features the entire roster of the 1916 World Series champion Boston Red Sox, including an up-and-coming 21-year-old standout pitcher named Babe Ruth.

“In rarity and prestige, this is certainly in our top 20,” Winter said. “It’s not every day when you come across an only-known Babe Ruth item.”

Breakout year for Ruth: Ruth, who had a breakout year in leading the Sox to the World Series, is featured among his 23 other teammates, as well as player-manager Bill Carrigan. His placement, which is just above and to the left of Carrigan on the button, may not have been intentional, yet his prominence on it is hard to overlook.

Playing alongside a pair of future Hall of Famers in Harry Hooper and Herb Pennock, Ruth was mostly utilized for his arm in 1916. The southpaw led the American League in starts (40), shutouts (nine) and ERA (1.75) while compiling a 23-12 record. He only pitched one game in the World Series against the Brooklyn Robins, but Ruth allowed only one run over 14 innings to earn the victory in what was a 2-1 triumph.

Ruth, of course, later was traded to the New York Yankees, where he became known as the greatest home-run hitter of his generation before getting selected for the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Unusual size: Among the many unusual attributes of the button, which promoted a Detroit brewery prominently in the center, is its sheer size. Most collectible pinback buttons are roughly between one and two inches, so this one is roughly three to six times larger.

“The size of this is unheard of,” Winter said. “And that really adds to the mystery of it. Why was it so large? We have team buttons during this auction and they are about an inch or so and the entire roster is crammed in on it so much so that you cannot even tell who they are. Part of it could be that they really wanted everyone to stand out. And the other could be that the Red Sox were the world champions. They were the Yankees of their time before the Yankees until Babe Ruth went there.”

Ruth auction closes at 9 p.m. Wednesday: The auction is already underway with the closing is set for 9 p.m. Wednesday. The initial opening bid was set at $10,000, but Winter confirmed that mark has already reached the $25,000 barrier as of 8:30 a.m. Monday.

“It’s kind of like eBay,” Winter said. “We have a clock that starts and when you bid on an item it restarts again. So everyone has a fair shot at getting that final bid in.”

You can go to https://www.hakes.com to follow the auction as well as bid on items from the two-day ending event. The Babe Ruth button as well as the rest of the items from the Muchinsky collection are set to conclude on Wednesday. Other auctions featuring Star Wars collectibles — including a 1979 encapsulated Boba Fett L-slot rocket-firing prototype from Kenner’s estimated to be worth between $50,000 and $75,000 — rare comics and others from the world of entertainment are slated to end on Thursday.

Reach Ryan Vandersloot at sports@yorkdisptach.com.